Any course that is consistently ranked in world top 100 lists is always going to increase your own expectation levels going into your first round there. This was certainly the case at Woodhall Spa- for somewhere in England I hadn’t heard a great deal about what made the Hotchkin course so good, or seen lots of photos of special holes.
Woodhall Spa completely met my expectations, and some. Driving in through the Lincolnshire countryside you wouldn’t expect there to be an expanse of sand that gives the course it’s firm playing characteristics, and makes the many large deep bunkers sustainable.
It’s a very flat piece of land, but the bunkering is so spot on that it makes the course extremely memorable. Every shot has to be considered strategically- off the tee there is always decisions to be made, and certain misses round the green can signal complete death for a golfer’s scorecard.
You start to realise the subtlety going on early in your round, for example the 3rd is a blind tee shot, but wiley golfers will realise that they had a glimpse of the 3rd fairway from the 2nd green. The course plays very firm and the bunkers are basically cut into the side of greens, and although I haven’t experienced Melbourne Sandbelt golf yet, I would expect this to be the UKs closest version to it.
An example of the trouble always lurking is on the short par 4 4th, where I hit Driver into a greenside bunker, but was never making less than a bogey because of being so out of place. The 5th is a downhill par 3 with the green sloping away from you, making it very hard to hold the green.
Every hole is great in its own right, but I particularly enjoyed the closing stretch. 15 has a epic green, and forces players to lay up because of heather and bunkering crossing the fairway short of the green. 17 is a brilliant short par 4, where the closer the player gets to certain fairway bunkers, the better angle they will have to the green (I hit 7 iron off this par 4 tee!). The 18th has 23 bunkers on it alone, and can play as a relatively short par 5 if bunkers are missed due to the firm terrain, but as with the rest of the course, it only takes a slight mistake for the player to be massively punished.
I can’t help but feel the Hotchkin course doesn’t get the plaudits it deserves with its location being slightly out the way from other golfing hotspots, but it is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance, and with the twilight rate being offered, it is also brilliant value.
Date: July 20, 2020